James Collins walks the walk when it comes to growing the IT workforce. In the top tech spot in Delaware since 2014, he uses his position to help encourage more diversity in IT. Working with several nonprofits, Collins gets in front of kids to talk about the vast opportunity in technology — much more so, for example, than in professional sports, where so many young people set their sights. And he understands the importance of the messenger in appealing to the next generation of IT leaders: “I want to get around to as many places as I can so kids can see somebody that looks like them and think, ‘I can do that too.’”
A customer of the central IT agency for several years before he was CIO, Collins saw the need to position central IT as a strong business partner to the agencies on the front lines of service delivery.
“If we’re doing something in government, it’s critical, and every single agency is dependent upon technology.” In the past 10 years, the state’s workforce has been reduced by more than 1,000 positions. Simultaneously, demand for services has grown considerably. “There’s a big gap in between those two trend lines, and technology usually fills that gap,” he said.
Also among his key accomplishments is helping make the state more transparent. An open data portal went live in October 2016 and he continues to work toward adding analytics capabilities, like with an integrated data system. A cross-sector cybersecurity council shares threat information and collaborates on supporting small businesses. Rural broadband pilots are testing wireless service delivery, made possible by the 700 miles of fiber that’s been laid in recent years.
But Collins points to the foundational work done by state IT as a crowning achievement. He doesn’t blame people who take that “invisible” work for granted, but as state CIO, he knows how important it is: “Keeping our network going, keeping our email going, running cybersecurity, running our elections system, our financial systems, our HR systems and many others,” he said. “I’m super proud of the work that the team does to keep our state running.”